Yangyel Lhaden

Gender-based violence (GBV) increased by 36.6 percent this year, according to records maintained by a non-governmental organisation, Respect, Educate, Nurture, and Empower Women (RENEW).

The organisation recorded about 700 cases as of November this year while it recorded about 500 cases of GBV last year.

RENEW’s executive director, Tshering Dolkar, said that 345 GBV cases were reported to RENEW during the lockdown.

The information was shared yesterday while RENEW observed the international day for elimination of violence against women (IDEVAW) in Thimphu.

Graced by Royal Patron and President of RENEW, Her Majesty the Gyalyum Sangay Choden Wangchuck, the day raised issues about GBV on the rise because of the pandemic.

On virtual national address, Her Majesty urged civil society organisations (CSOs) working for women and partner agencies to enhance public awareness about violence during the lockdown and shared her concerns on pandemic taking a toll on GBV.

“We must not only survive Covid-19 crisis but emerge renewed with women as a powerful force at the centre for recovery,” Her Majesty said.

A movie, ‘Reflections’ was launched.

It talks about domestic violence (DV) and how the society has changed where women are less resistant to it and how situations have improved compared to the past while some women and girls still endure it silently.

RENEW would carry out 16 days of activism to observe IDEVAW from November 25 till December 10 to advocate and create awareness on GBV through its community-based support system (CBSS) and dzongkhag volunteers. Social media awareness would also be carried out.

Tshering Dolkar said that while she feels blessed to be born in Bhutan, IDEVAW makes her question the existence of GBV in the land of gross national happiness.

“It was heartbreaking to listen to stories of women and children during the lockdown,” she said.

RENEW as a service provider reached out to vulnerable group during the pandemic, which put pressure on resources at shelter homes.

With support from partner agencies UNFPA and UNDP, equipment to shelter homes in six dzongkhags and basic necessities were provided.

So far, 300 key vulnerable individuals were provided skills training such as weaving, baking, tailoring, and floriculture.

Tshering Dolkar said that GBV was a public health issue with manifold consequences such as mental health, poverty, and the economy. “Thus the services must be prepared and strengthened to respond to public health crisis through adequate planning and long term funding.”

The press release from  RENEW stated that RENEW is committed to reinforce its mission of empowering women and children and eliminate violence of all forms against women and girls.  “RENEW is making efforts to achieve three zeros; zero GBV, zero unmet contraceptive and zero maternal death by 2030.”

The year’s global theme is “Orange the World: Fund, Respond, Prevent, and Collect” and the day was observed nation wide by RENEW’s CBSS and dzongkhag volunteers.